Historically, if you work at an agency, you can expect to work. A lot.
When we started Parkway, a 50+ hour week wasn’t uncommon. As founders, this felt reasonable; we were willing to put in work to get the business off the ground. But once we grew our workload to the point we needed more help, we decided we wanted to create a healthy work-life balance for our team.
A Bad Example
On a personal level, not being able to “turn off” work has always had its share of challenges. To start a business, you have to be open to (and even enjoy) the constant barrage of work, so it wasn’t an issue for me as much as it was for my family. It wasn’t until we had a team of five that I started leaving my laptop at home for vacations. Even now, I find myself checking emails regularly and making sure inbound work is flowing where it needs to. This isn’t something I need to do anymore; I just have a hard time shutting it off. My wife hates it.
While it is something I am actively working on, I did not want to create that type of environment for my team.
With our first addition to the team in 2016, we created some ground rules for communication both in and out of the office. The tools have evolved over time, but the concepts are consistent.
- Team members are not asked (or even encouraged) to have company email on their phones. To the best of my knowledge, not a single team member other than myself and Rob do.
- Everyone has set work hours that do not exceed 40 hours per week, and we adhere to them—strictly.
- When you leave for the day, you are done. Clients don’t have access to team members outside of work hours, even in the case of an emergency. Founders are the only contact points for after-hours requests.
- We respect the team’s personal time. It is rare that I reach out to anyone outside of their scheduled work hours. It does happen from time to time with team leaders, but I do my best to keep it to an absolute minimum.
Creating boundaries is essential. I’m proud that we’ve been able to implement these rules within our culture and have been able to maintain them all these years. We manage expectations with our clients and, to this point, it has never been an issue.
A Focus on Flexibility
Even while at work, we wanted to prioritize balance. Not only in hours worked but how those hours are spent throughout the day.
- We implemented a hybrid schedule for all team members, three days in the office and two days remote each week.
- We won’t schedule meetings on specific weekdays.
- We’ve worked flexibly into the design of our new office. There are shared workspaces as well as private offices team members can utilize if they wish. That way, depending on how you feel you need to work, you can roam from your main desk to a private office and even down to the library or coffee shop if you need a change of scenery.
Providing balance and flexibility for the staff on company time empowers each staff member to decide which environment is best for them on any given day.
The Impact of Balance
Personally, having a great team behind me has allowed me to implement more balance in my own life I certainly didn’t have at the beginning. Working remotely a couple of days a week creates excitement to head to the office on the days everyone is there. And the remote days give me the opportunity to do more deep work that might be more difficult to complete at the office.
The team shares the same benefits, and with the flexible office design, we empower everyone to work as they see fit while on company time. And if someone needs a personal day, they take it, no questions asked.
In the short term, overworking staff might have profitability benefits, especially in our industry. But I find that by keeping to our strict 40-hour-a-week schedule and creating a balanced, safe work environment, the team is happier and more productive when they are working.
The Work Continues
There are always new opportunities and research on the effects of positive work/life balance in business. It is something I monitor and continuously assess, both for me and the team. Prioritizing policies for the company, and myself, have yielded positive results thus far, and we certainly won’t be stopping that anytime soon.